Category Archives: Short Stories

The approach

The Approach

Plumes of steam flew in the cold air dancing from the tops of each pipe in rhythm with viennese waltz, obscured by the passing wooden figures rising up and down as if they were looking over the heads in the crowd, looking for another to partner them in their spinning and prancing cavalcade dance. Children screamed in delight as their horses spun around and around to the music.

The Carousel

I stood in my raincoat, turned against the winter rain but entranced, three feet from the turning platform, close enough for each strident note to pound at my chest. Cream and gold and red gleaming horses flashed past my eyes and in my memories dancing together, the now and the then. Allowing this daydream to persist was a luxury that I had not enjoyed since the old days and I stayed there a long time. It was becoming  a backdrop against which I felt sure that something else was about to appear, like the ‘boket in a photograph taken with a wide aperture setting. A closer subject began to make itself known, sharper and slowly distinct.

A large black steel ketch formed in my eye or in my head, it’s vast white sails taught against the trade winds. The horses becoming creamy tops to the waves still dancing to the Austrian waltzes. 

I am going to see someone on the square again. Every year since I started visiting the old Showmans Fairs here, the same thing happened; an old friend, a flashing idea of someone from the past. I came here for this perhaps; to find my ghost of the past. What better place and time? The enigmatic fairground in winter, swirling colours and winds, sparkling lights against the dark leaden sky. A place of mystery for children and romantics alike.

Like a hammer, a heavy hand struck my shoulder at that very instant, timed with my visions and thoughts. The shock blasting away the images of the sea and horses just as the waltzing horses slowed to a halt in both the ride and in the raging sea. I turned around and felt the blood rising in my cheeks and a reddening in my neck under my turned up collar.  

“Claude? Bonjours!”

“Salut petit mec” he replied in that permanent Breton accent of the old fishermen. It had been thirty seven years since we last saw each other in the Canary Islands and it now, suddenly seemed that the years had evaporated. We were back on the deck of his ‘Dioul Du’ – The Black Devil.

“So why are you here” we both asked at the same time. Half a smile nearly appeared on his always tight mouth. “For the Ocean Racing Committee. You?” 

“I am here for the Showmans Fair. I always come. But I am surprised to see you, there was no news, for years, I heard…..”

“No don’t listen to all that merde” he snapped. “I am here now. And you, you were always the showman, n’est-ce pas”

“But you were on the Big Tour no? Solo Circumnagivation?” 

“Yes I did that and I finished and now I am here for the committee” He was irritated.

“What about the ketch? Where is she?”

“We left her in the Ivory Coast”

“Yes, I thought so but we all had so many possessions on board her, memories too”

Well now they had all gone years past, there was nothing left of those days. Only one question remained.

“Why did you abandon the Atlantic crossing Claude? You could have found new crew when we left you in the islands. Only another 30 days to go. No, you left the ocean and headed for the Gold Coast. What was going on?”

Claude remained silent and began to turn his head away.

“I don’t think that you ever planned to take us all across, did you?”

 We had planned for months the voyage to Guadeloupe, to look for work and adventure. We had all dreamed of the life in the sun with our partners and our babies in tow; the sailing, the sun and the island life. 

“What happened in Gran Canaria Claude? What was in the sealed containers in the aft cabin? Why did you go into the conflict on the West Coast?”

He was turned away now, looking into the crowd as though he had seen something or someone out there or perhaps his regard was more distant and his mind on other times and places. This great broad man turned his sea beaten face slowly back towards me. His eyes were wet. His lips moved as if to speak, another flash of white and gold, between them in a second – before he stopped. Claude turned away again and began to walk. He never turned back, not at sea, not in life and not now.  

Only that once.

The next day the Fair was over and my mind came to rest on these events. The sky had cleared and the temperature had risen a degree or two. Wandering around the empty fairground I tried to remember all that had happened on that great steel yacht, long ago dissapeared. What had happened between us all on board and in port. Why had I met Claude again now, here in Saint Malo?

 I found a telephone. 

“Ici le Gendarmerie Maritime, bonjour” Yes Monsieur, un instant je vous prie? I waited for the officer to come back to the ‘phone with the information that I had requested.

“ Non Monsieur we only found the wreck of the black yacht floating 100 nautical from Ouessant. There was no-one on board, nothing, no sign of life.

Monsieur I can confirm categorically that Monsieur Claude Olivier was lost at sea 10 years ago.”.

Rene Paul Gosselin

Johannesburg. 15th May 2015

Fishermen of Kalk Bay

Fishermen, Fishing gear
Working the Gear

I spent nearly two years regularly visiting the harbour village of Kalk Bay on the peninsular of the Cape of Good Hope and which sits comfortably in the northern nook of False Bay (Die Blou Dam). Many of my images were originally made with digital media and in colour and the results were initially very satisfying. For this reason, and for the pleasure of the fishing people of Kalk Bay,  I produced a small book with many of these pictures; “Fishermen – Kalk Bay”. This is available at Kalky’s on the harbour and at the KB Modern in a very limited edition.

However, I found some lack of satisfaction with the perfect medium of digital colour and decided to complete the entire 15 images for a new exhibition in black and white. I began shooting with a wonderful Nikon F100, one of the latest and most capable 35mm film cameras produced by Nikon. I have many of these images still to be printed! This ease of practice still did not generate a feeling of accomplishment.

In January of 2016, I  found a 1983 Hasselblad 501c from a very well known photographer who had decided to close down her Silver Hallide facility; the whole kit had never been outside the studio and was in perfect condition. The famous Hasselblad is a square (6cm x 6cm) medium format camera. Focusing; exposure and film manipulation is entirely manual and in fact quite physical! This was the trigger that I had been lacking and my shooting schedule took off with unexpected verve. This included a 15 hour stint on a 12m line-fishing vessel in quite rough conditions (with a heavy manual camera). By October I had the first 10 images printed and framed and every reasonable image printed as a rough proof in my own darkroom.

The final prints were made by the world renowned Master Printer – Dennis Da Silva at The Alternative Print Workshop in Johannesburg. All images were printed on Ilford Fine Art silver hallide paper, signed and numbered (Only 10 images of each will be produced). Dennis and I spent 20 marathon hours in the darkroom to finish this collection. This exhibition should really have been in the name of Dennis De Silva. I just took the pics.

Finally there were 15 images hanging at the notoriously delicious Olympia Cafe (You have to try their Yellowtail) and I was given the space for the whole month of February. I think that the Olympia Cafe is by far the funkiest Art Space in the Cape. Do try and visit some of the shows there.

You can see more of the images in B&W and  Digital Colour at:

Lily of the Valley

The late Christopher Robin and I lived in a strangely elongated property which discretely sat comfortably in a downtown suburb of the capital. A long high and roughly hewn, pink granite wall, ran for most of the length of the farm. For that’s what it was for my father; a farm. The farm he had always wanted. The one he was robbed of, never had and had so much longed for. It was small for a farm so we called it a ‘market garden’. This title conferred a certain professionalism, neither with pretention, nor betraying the actual acreage of the enterprise.

At the very north end an enclave, formed by high pink granite walls, roughy hewn blocks, neatly arranged and perfectly pointed with cement, contained a very special place. It was, it seemed to me, only popular once a year. Early in the spring this little enclave became a hive of activity. In the cool air and slight, acid, sandy and well composted soil, grew the capital’s only ‘Muguet’.

My father sold hundreds of sprigs for that festival of spring, so french and so perverted and stolen from the old religion. All the ladies and girls sported my Papa’s muguet in their hair or in their coiffe and then men squeezed them into the finicky little lapel button holes sewed only by the more discerning tailors of the day.

The real value of these :”Lilies of the Valley” for me was nothing to do with workers day. It was the anchor: ~ Any morning I could walk across the large vegetable garden, brushing against the aromatic lavender and rosemary bushes that hardly hid my silhouette from the rising sun. Quietly on my own I could enter, through a small doorless arch, this paradise in between simple earthbound walls and feel the cool, damp aroma, so powerful when your height puts your nose so close to the little flowers.

If life called, time rushed towards school time and other imperatives tried to interrupt this precious moment, if nothing else, not your body, then your mind and your heart stayed firmly planted in amongst those most sweetly fragranced, small delicate annual apparitions that appeared, strangely every year in the cool calmness and sweetness of our little enclosure. My spirit still inhales these perfumes and feels these delicacies.


Arriving in the 21st Century.

Arriving in the 21st Century.

Transport  trees ecological
Finding more eco friendly transport.

This week I arrived in your century. I was stuck for a while in the last one and I am not complaining, the second half was a great innings. We had the sexy sixties and flower power after all.

We had Bob Dylan more than you have probably and we definitely had more of the Beatles for longer. We went to the moon and travelled through space in re-usable spacecraft before you retired them and called for Russian Taxi Rockets. We looked into the Sun and sent probes off to distant planets and some of them have only just got there. But it was still the 20th century.

It is not as though I had not embraced the new world either. I even tried my hand at “technology” with clever home brew antennas and complicated black boxes. A complete room full of 20th century equipment was required to speak around the world and bounce radio waves from orbiting satellites flying 60,000 kms above my crackling headphones. On 1st August 1998 at 10.00 UTC, the ill fated Russian space station Mir flew overhead at 600 kms altitude and I unsuccessfully invited the French Commander down for lunch, carefully adjusting my frequency for the doppler effect. “After a glass of wine” he replied on VHF, as clear as a bell; “I would require a lift back up here”. He was definitely a contemporary. I probably had a computer before your birthday and still have the wounded vertebrae from carrying it from one room to another. So it’s not like I didn’t try. My data disks contained what I told them and never requested an update, a deep scan or a defrag but they did require 6 inch envelopes and a big family to do a little job. There were no viruses on that machine as long as the children , excited at wining at Pacman, did not spittle onto the screen.

The crux of the matter is that I could understand everything up until the dying years of the nineteen hundreds. I could dismantle my car and visualise where everything went and what it did or at least what it was supposed to do when things went well. A noise from any particular point of the rose would indicate to me a noisy bearing so to speak. It could be fixed! It was the era of spare parts and these could be purchased without producing your life history and having your retina scanned. Oil rags were not something that cars ran on, they lived in your pocket, ready for action at the first sniff of a leak. Oil stains on your garage floor were a sign of distinction, wealth even.

The 21st century did not take me by surprise. Oh no, not by any means for I had even laughed at the Millenium Bug scam and switched everything off the day before. The very day of that dawn I stood at the ready, armed with multiple killer sprays before switching on even the toaster. No, the century came unexpectedly without surprise. But I knew what we were in for and I was determined to embrace everything new.

Fourteen years later I could still not leave the house without my oil rag, the most vital accessory for a 1980s petrol engined Land Rover, 400,000 kms old. Other peoples cars smell of strange factory induced mossy by-products, designed to induce feeling of modernity foreign to me; cleanliness, leather-care products, oil and grease free perfumes sprayed into the glove box just prior to closing the deal. Mine has that greasy carpet, burnt rubber, old cigarette, dead rat kind of smell; that’s what people say. Fine with me until the petrol price hits the R14 per soup-spoon level.

It become cheaper to take the Blue Train to Cape Town than to drive my car which needs 450 litres to get there and back. That is probably more than a Jumbo Jet costs per passenger.

So the 21st arrives and with it hope for the eternal driver and traveller; the less expensive kilometre. Solar powered, hybrids, fully electrical cars, hydrogen cells powered and even compressed air cars to be made in a factory in Kyalami. But the price of my petrol climbs quickly to disavow the promises of driving utopia. On the 1st of January 2000 the Brent Crude Oil spot price hovered around the $20 a barrel and on the same day in 2014 the price had climbed to nearly $110.

So from a litre of Super at under R3.00 my poor old Land Rover needed the new LRP at over R14.00 per litre; at 15 litres per 100 kilometres that means R2.25 per km. Her technology is not keeping up with the times. And nor is my pocket money. Something has to be done.

On one of those balmy ‘going no-where’ trips around the country I sit looking at the Knysna Louries flying freely and at zero rands per kilometre, from my garden bench in a backpackers. It occurs to me to stay here for a while. Why? Because the backpackers cost R200 a night/day and if I begin the next stage of my journey I will have to pay R700 of petrol, my daily burden with a 3.5l V8 ~ 2000kg motor car. I will have to fork out R3375 one of these days to get back from the Cape! It takes me 5 days to go to the Cape and 14 years to come back to reality. I need an oil rag sniffer that will set me free of the petrol station, diesel even. New technology, small turbo, direct injection, common rail, 100 kw, 400nm and 5 litres per light-year, or an electric car, good for 350km on one fast charge is what we need.

I look at small sedans which are too tempting to car thieves, delivery vans which have no road clearance, motorbikes which have paniers too small for my camera, pick-up trucks which are either too expensive or too rotten and find that only compromise will work in this quest. It’s all very well to have the technology ubiquitous but I don’t see a Tesla or a compressed-air engine anywhere. No hybrids available second hand. No charging stations, let alone solar powered ones, no Re-cycled Vegetable Oil filling stations exist in my real world. And everyone in the city is driving big sedans, fatter four-wheel drives monsters and ugly flashy S.U.V.s which all burn 10-20l per 100 km. I wonder if Nichola T is turning in his grave.

I think that I am going to get some bare chested hippies to paint sexy sixties flower-power motifs all over my gas guzzling go-mobile. Surf’s up. And then tonight; I’m going to get high on petrol fumes and listen to Bob and the Beatles and watch the Soyuz fly past.

Cracking crude oil is still cheaper tech than Crack on the street.

More images on how cars work today: ~~

Scotties' WARP control panel.
Scotties’ WARP control panel.

Plasma intake
Plasma intake